It Matters How This Ends is the debut work of Jamale Mahfouz published in August 2018, in Beirut, Lebanon. Tackling a very sensitive matter, Mahfouz employs stylistic devices such as collage and allusion to emphasize the importance of bringing to light what is long held as taboo and giving voice to a dangerous silence. Sexual assault and harassment are daily occurrences across the globe, yet the recurrence of such hostilities should never be a reason to belittle or marginalize the voice of any victim or silence their pain. The book relays a blunt stance against the silence covering this social issue and encourages every victim to speak up for the sake of themselves and others. Mahfouz reiterates her stance against the silence and her encouragement to speak up.
The author might have written the story of someone she personally knew, but unfortunately everyone can write a similar story about a friend they know. “The story is based on a real-life experience of a very close friend. The reason I decided to write about her is upon a request from that friend to tell her story to the world as she is unable to tell it herself. What also motivated me to take this step is the shared experience of harassment and sexual abuse many women friends and acquaintances face on daily basis. However, the victims of such harassment are not solely women, as a drastic number of children experience this same cruelty every day, everywhere. The story, of course, reflects a part of my personal experience as well.”
The women behind the story breaks the silence and entrusts Mahfouz with the personal details of a life that no human should experience. “I felt is it is a bounding duty to talk about this out loud, especially that we live in a part of the world where such issues remain the greatest taboo regardless of the repercussions they entail on the individual and the social level. It is high time we talked about this matter and shared our experiences rather than keeping it to ourselves. When we abstain from talking and sharing our experience with the world, we become victims of violence and silence.”
While this is among the most common aggressions worldwide, every voice makes a difference and every victim matters. “This story aims to send a message about a drastically pressing issue. The reason I focused on the young girl in the book is to highlight how the things she faces as a child will haunt her as an adult when she does not deal with it and stand up for herself right from the beginning regardless of social restraints. The woman has no name, thus no identity, throughout most of the story. Hence, she is every victim until she decides to be only herself, chooses her own name, decides her own destiny by standing up for herself.”
Because every voice matters, the story also has its own voice, or style so to say. “The twist in the story (which I leave for the reader to discover) aims to allow the reader to choose and decide for themselves what fate their choice may bring. It is paramount to understand that our choices forge our path in life and when we choose to remain silent we are choosing to remain victims, and thus we are offering an escape for the perpetrators of such horrific acts and being part of their crimes against other people. Whereas when we talk and share our stories, we overcome violence and injustice. We become the masters of our own life rather than allowing others to control and imprison us in pain and suffering.”
The protagonist is a woman, but the message is for all. “It is indeed a very common story among women. Yet, I do not want this story to advocate solely for women’s experiences as such hardships are similarly suffered by men and young children as well. This is rather a wake-up call to face the most important social issue and break the obstacles of shame and reputation for the sake of our kids and future generations. I am hearing and reading about similar stories every single day across the Arab world and all around the world.”
So many advocates and social groups are working on countering the rising pace of daily harassments and sexual abuse, yet the way remains long before we attain the difference we seek. “This story is but a drop in an ocean of harassment and sexual assault. So many groups and institutions are fighting for such causes as we are in dire need for awareness and social support.”
Having the author said enough, it is now left for readers to explore this story and join the stance against silence, so no voice remains unheard. Brené Brown sums it up in her book Braving The Wilderness when she quotes Viola Davis: “There’s an unspoken message that the only stories worth telling are the stories that end up in history books. This is not true. Every story matters. We are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honored in the same way that we all need to breath.”